MESA, Ariz. -- In the midst of a seemingly harmless morning workout, Cubs prospect Albert Almora grimaced, asked for the team trainer, walked off the field and headed into the clubhouse. Injuries happen all year, of course. But there is a specific proliferation of them in these weeks leading up to the regular season that is a natural byproduct of that initial ramping-up of activity. Scenes like this one involving Almora are all too common.
Fortunately, Almora escaped with only back spasms. No big deal. But across the Phoenix metropolitan area and Florida, there are the less-lucky ones. Jhonny Peralta. Brett Anderson. Cameron Maybin. Carter Capps. Danny Hultzen. Every day, it seems, at least one more dude goes down. A Red Sox prospect broke his hand fighting a teammate. Prince Fielder had to leave Rangers camp because of sleep deprivation. It's dangerous out here.
So hey, how about some good news?
Here are 10 positive pieces of information involving players who missed time in 2015.
Robinson Cano, Mariners
Generally speaking, a spring home run -- especially for a well-established player with a locked-in roster spot -- is no big thing. But Cano homered just once in the Cactus League last year, and that did, indeed, prove to be a telltale trend when the lights went on and he went deep just six times in a miserable first half (.251/.290/.370 slash line). We know now that Cano was not only dealing with a double hernia that required surgical intervention but also having stomach issues that sapped his strength and his ability to eat.
So it was good to see Cano homer in just his fifth at-bat of the spring this week.
"Honestly, I feel way, way better," Cano said. "Last year I wasn't able to use my hips the way I'm using them right now. I watched some video when I was home. I'm moving really good compared to the way I was last year. This is a lot better."
Victor Martinez, Tigers
V-Mart was another superstar talent who endured a lost '15. Coming off his second pre-Spring Training knee surgery in four years, the switch-hitter was a non-factor from the left side, unable to generate power because of the unsteadiness of that recovering left knee.
Maybe what's happening in these early Grapefruit games -- a .412 (7-for-17) showing with two home runs -- is mere mirage. Entering his age-37 season, it's hard to bank on Martinez returning to an All-Star level. But this is one of the great pure hitters of his time, and Martinez's movements in these early games have been awfully encouraging.
"He just looks stronger," manager Brad Ausmus said.
Stephen Strasburg, Nationals
He's likely to be the principal figure in a much weaker starting pitching market next winter, which means Strasburg has a lot on the line in 2016. But the reports out of Viera, Fla., point to a more relaxed, at-ease Strasburg than we've seen in the past, and his arsenal is at its best following a strong second half in 2015 (1.76 ERA and 110 strikeouts against just 12 walks in 13 starts).
Last spring, Strasburg hurt his ankle in Spring Training, and that proved to be a precursor to bigger problems -- messed-up mechanics, an altered delivery, shoulder blade irritation, neck muscle tightness, an oblique strain and upper back discomfort. Little wonder Strasburg's performance was inconsistent. But the strong finish and a so-far healthy and effective spring point to a potentially big bounceback.
Michael Brantley, Indians
In targeting only platoon types, the Indians navigated a deep free-agent outfield market seemingly certain that Brantley wouldn't endure any significant setbacks in his recovery from early November shoulder surgery. So far, so good. Brantley's timetable was already the most important Tribe talking point going into camp, and the news that Abraham Almonte got banged 80 games for using performance-enhancers ordinarily set aside for horses and cattle only augmented Brantley's value to this club. The Indians are in dire need of an everyday outfielder, especially one who qualifies as their most consistent hitter.
It's therefore heartening to see Brantley swinging a bat indoors. He's expected to graduate to live batting practice on the field this weekend. Brantley has never ruled himself out for Opening Day, though the Indians obviously don't want him to do too much, too soon, particularly since the injury involved his lead shoulder. But Brantley is making it increasingly clear he'll be back in April, and not a moment too soon for a team with one of the best starting staffs in the league but little offensive upside.
Albert Pujols, Angels
Another guy whose Opening Day outlook was questionable going into camp as a result of November surgery. The Mang had a procedure to alleviate pain near the arch of his right foot in early November, and the thought at the time was that he wouldn't be ready for game activity until the end of the spring schedule. Pujols has thus far been limited to designated-hitter duties, but he's generally expected to see more DH time this season anyway. Though Pujols has to be careful not to overdo it, as he can be accused of doing after knee surgery in 2013, Opening Day preparedness does not appear to be a problem.
"You guys are the ones that counted me out," Pujols told reporters. "I don't really worry about too much of that."
(That, for the record, is the quintessential Pujols quote.)
Jurickson Profar, Rangers
The former top prospect hadn't played in the field at all since 2013 because of shoulder issues that led to surgery. There had been rumblings about him showing life in his bat in the Arizona Fall League, where he DH'd, and those rumblings led to multiple teams contacting the Rangers trying to buy low. But Texas wisely kept him as a depth piece, and the early spring showing has been encouraging. Not only did Profar homer off Cole Hamels in an early intrasquad, but he's shown some flash in the field at shortstop, where the Rangers are keeping him in order to maintain a consistent throwing angle.
Profar entered camp with little chance of securing an Opening Day roster spot, and it's too soon to tell if his outlook has changed in that regard. But at the very least, he's reminding people of why he was once so highly touted, and he could provide valuable insurance -- or be a valuable trade chip -- for the defending American League West champs.
Michael Saunders, Blue Jays
Yep, still with the Blue Jays, despite their attempts to include him in a trade that would have brought Jay Bruce to Toronto. Saunders is making the most of what could have been an awkward situation, and he's offering evidence of what the Blue Jays missed when he stepped on that sprinklerhead, wrenched his knee and essentially ended his 2015 season before it began.
Saunders played only nine games for the AL East champs in 2015, so that's a pretty small sample. And yes, his Grapefruit League showing is a small sample, too. But in that latter sample, he's ripped three homers in 13 at-bats. A lot of us liked the Blue Jays' acquisition of Saunders before 2015 (for whatever it's worth, I had him on my All-Underrated squad going into the season…) on the basis of him being a good defender with power when healthy (and therein lied the rub). Obviously, Saunders didn't stay healthy in '15, but perhaps his spring is indicative of his preparedness to show the Blue Jays he's a player worth keeping.
"He was committed to make sure this was the best trade that never happened," general manager Ross Atkins told reporters.
Joe Panik, Giants
Panik has said he feels "normal," and that's a far cry from how he felt in the second half last season, when his All-Star season was upset by back issues that forced him to miss all but four games in the last two months of the season.
The Giants have an unfortunate recent history of seeing their second basemen -- Freddy Sanchez and Marco Scutaro -- derailed by back problems. But doctors have assured Panik his condition is/was not chronic, and so he's up and running and (hopefully) ready to build on his breakout.
Adam Wainwright, Cardinals
He was wild and had to pitch around heavy traffic in two innings of work against the Mets. But we'll let the specifics slide and just say that, for a club that lost its starting shortstop for 2-3 months with a thumb injury, the return of Waino was even more welcomed and meaningful than we initially imagined.
Chien-Ming Wang, Royals
I can't believe it's 2016 and there is relevant information to report on Chien-Ming Wang, but here we are. Wang hasn't pitched in the big leagues since 2013. Because of injuries, most notably major shoulder surgery, he hasn't really been a relevant contributor to a rotation since 2008. And yet there is some legitimate -- and possibly regrettable -- buzz about the way he's throwing the ball in Royals camp, with his sinker sitting around 92 or 93 mph and getting good action.
It's only a few scoreless innings in the Cactus League, and it's probably silly to expect much out of Wang this year (he had a 5.88 ERA in Triple-A last season). But this situation is worth mentioning and worth monitoring, because these are the Royals. Which means we should probably expect Wang to be starting Game 3 of the World Series.
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Anthony Castrovince is a Sports on Earth contributor, MLB.com columnist and MLB Network contributor. Follow him on Twitter @Castrovince.